More than 200 Taiwanese will be deported to China from Spain, just months after warnings were issued by the government.

Following similar cases where Taiwanese citizens who committed telecommunications fraud in Kenya, Malaysia and the Philippines were extradited to China, the Spanish government agreed to deport 269 individuals arrested in Spain for phone scams — 218 Taiwanese nationals and 51 Chinese — to China on Feb. 17, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reports. It is understood to be the largest single group of Taiwanese fraud supsects to be extradited to China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Wu Chih-chung (吳志中) met with Spain’s representative to Taiwan José Luis Echaniz on Feb. 20 to ask that the Taiwanese offenders be extradited to Taiwan, Taiwan’s China Times reports.

The 269 offenders were arrested in December 2016, following joint operations by the Spanish and Chinese authorities. The scammers were operating from rented houses in the Spanish countryside and targeting Chinese nationals, scamming victims out of up to €16 million (US$16.9 million), CNA reports.

While the Spanish government has decided to allow the extradition, the Spanish court still has to charge the alleged fraudsters before they are formally deported, Hong Kong’s The Initium reports.

The European Union says that in following the 'one-China' policy, the E.U. does not have diplomatic or formal political relations with Taiwan. However, the E.U. and Taiwan do have unofficial relations and do trade with each other. Taiwan was also barred by China from participating in the Interpol general assembly in November 2016.

On Feb. 18, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a statement that it had already told China’s Taiwan Affairs Office that the Taiwanese fraudsters should be turned over to the Taiwanese authorities, according to The Initium.

Following Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on May 20, 2016, there has been no cooperation between China and Taiwan on combating crime, the Taiwan Affairs Office told The Initium. It also said that Taiwan should rethink its regulations and political culture, The Initium reports.

Taiwanese nationals being deported to China after being charged with telecom fraud overseas has become so common that an anti-telephone fraud commercial released by the Mainland Affairs Council in December 2016 warns offenders that they could “face deportation to China, ruining [your] bright future.”

Netizens have criticized the commercial, accusing the government of using deportation to China as a deterrent instead of working to save the Taiwanese citizens who have already been deported to China.

Twenty-one Taiwanese nationals arrested in Malaysia for telecommunications fraud were extradited to China in November 2016. Kenya also deported Taiwanese nationals charged with telecom fraud in April and August last year.

Editor: Edward White